People should stop linking obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) with being fussy or tidy, says a man who has the “terribly misunderstood” condition.
Iestyn Lewis, from Anglesey, admitted he used to make throwaway comments about being “a little bit OCD” but that changed after he was diagnosed.
The condition sees people having unwanted and repeated thoughts that can lead to obsessive behaviour.
Charity OCD Action said better awareness was needed.
Mr Lewis, 25, said he believes that a lack of understanding about OCD leads to some individuals having to deal with symptoms for years without knowing the true reason behind them.
“OCD is seen as one of the 10 most disabling illnesses by the World Health Organisation, why then do we use such a serious illness to describe the way some people like being tidy or organised?” he said.
“The result of playing down the severity of OCD is dangerous.
“As a society we are much more open when it comes to discussing mental health issues, but we must go further – the battle is not over.”
He added: “The worst thing about OCD is that it throws the worst possible thoughts at the individual, and as a result that person has to neutralise this anxiety by performing certain actions,” he said.
“It took me almost eight years before being correctly diagnosed. Why? A lack of personal understanding? Professional workers failing to recognise the symptoms? Embarrassment for having such thoughts? It was a mixture.”
According to the charity OCD-UK, around 36,000 people in Wales had OCD in 2017 – and around 1-2% of Britain’s population is believed to live with the condition.
The thoughts and behaviours of individuals living with OCD can often be seen as unreasonable, but cannot be ignored.
The severity of the condition can vary, but with care and support it is treatable – without treatment there is a danger of symptoms deteriorating, according to OCD-UK.
The charity added that the NHS does offer two types of treatment for the condition, but many find it difficult to receive adequate treatment and often have to wait a long time to be seen.
Elis Derby, 22, from Y Felinheli, near Bangor in Gwynedd, who also has OCD, said: “I remember even since primary school that I felt compelled to keep everything in a certain way just to keep my mind at ease – but I started showing some more obvious symptoms during my preparations for my GCSE exams.
“I remember one time, when I had to get a taxi back to my flat after numerous ‘bad turns’. As I was pointing to my destination the driver got angry and thought that I was wasting his time – because it was so close.
“I didn’t want to make him feel bad by explaining the true reason behind me needing his services, so I said nothing. This is one example but it made me feel down for some time afterwards.”
A spokesman for OCD Action said: “OCD is widely misunderstood, and unfortunately, it’s common to hear people misusing it as an adjective to describe someone who is neat and tidy, but the reality for those living with OCD couldn’t be more different.
“These false portrayals can stop people who are genuinely affected by the condition seeking help, often due to a fear that they will not be taken seriously.
“They also contribute to a greater lack of understanding which can cause people affected to suffer unknowingly in silence.”